Dili, 25 FEBRUARY 2016
Mr President of National Parliament,
Distinguished members of Parliament, distinguished guests
It is a great honour for me for the third time to be here, before this Assembly to share my vision and address the nation, particularly following the two weeks of intense discussion on the discharge of the General Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces and the appointment of Brigadier-General Filomeno Paixão de Jesus to take over the position.
My speech will focus on three important aspects:
first of all, the strengthening of political and social cohesion which we have achieved since 2012; secondly, I will comment on the discharge of the General Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces, Mr Lere Anan Timur, which has caused fierce controversy involving the President of the Republic, the Parliament and the Government.
I had a cold yesterday. I was sick last night. While I was all alone with the thoughts, maybe God has helped, only helps the Government and Parliament, and The President is left all alone. However, I managed to find the strength to stand before Your Excellencies here today.
Thirdly, I will share a few thoughts on an important issue, in particularly to me, which has been a topic of discussion for the last two weeks, namely as to how Timor-Leste is being led and the type of civilization we are building up.
My term of office has been focussing on the strengthening of political and social cohesions, because I know that without political and social stability there is no national development. The consolidation of political and social stability depends on three aspects:
Firstly, the relationship between Xanana Gusmão and Marí Alkatiri
Secondly, political parties CNRT and FRETILIN
Thirdly, the strengthening of the relation with the population or between those governing and those governed.
When I ran for President – I was still General – I followed the intense discussion between our brothers Xanana Gusmão and Marí Alkatiri amd questioned myself:
Do we have the time to continue putting up with these two?
We had to put up with them since 1975, isn’t that enough?
When will this be over?
Do we still have patience to put up with them?
Does national development depend on these people?
Being a candidate I myself went to meet mr. Marí Alkatiri and I asked him,
“are you willing to meet Xanana Gusmão?”
He said, “I am.”
I then asked Xanana Gusmão, “Are you willing to meet Marí Alkatiri, Dr Marí Alkatiri?”
He just played his mouth.
When Father Martinho met me and said that the Diocese of Baucau had already sponsored Maubisse 1 and Maubisse 2 initiatives, and could not sponsor a third one. Could the President of the Republic sponsor this initiative?
I thought to myself “who do I think I am to serve as an example to both Xanana Gusmão and Marí Alkatiri, when they are the founding fathers of the nation and I’m just a follower?
My decision was not to hold Maubisse 3, and being a President, I gave those two the opportunity to come to an understanding.
I am pleased, after several years, 45 months later, I’m happy that our brothers Xanana and Alkatiri have come to an understanding which is reflected in the relationship between CNRT and FRETILIN, their militants and the population as a whole. Three consecutive years of unanimity at this Parliament.
In August 2015, I met American congressmen. They asked me,
“Mr President, how does democracy work in Timor if there is no opposition?”
My replies were, Timor only has two ways, only two options:
The first is the classical democracy, where there is a majority and a minority.
The second is the strengthening of political and social cohesion, the achievement of stability with a view to develop Timor-Leste. This was the path chosen by Timor. Why? Democracy is a means, not an end.
In 2013 I asked our brothers Xanana, Marí and Lu Olo, “For what purposes is unanimity used?” Probably to address issues that a political party alone cannot solve. We have the veterans issue, the constitutional revision issue, the national strategic development plan. Unfortunately they don’t use unanimity, mutual understanding, to solve these issues. They use it for purposes of power and privilege. Brother Xanana takes care of Timor while brother Marí takes care of Oecussi.
I’m sad. It’s like an antivirus. Those who talk against Parliament and the Government become targets. Is this the sort of democracy we see in our country? The President of the Republic believes it is not. Democracy works on the basis of the principle of mutual trust, and this trust relies on the ability to hear each other. Without this ability, does democracy work? Without trust, does democracy work? No, it doesn’t.
I now would like to comment on the controversy over General Lere. I’ve always supported the idea of having a transition from a state of men to a state based on the rule of law. While in the mountains, if someone died, that person would be immediately replaced, while in the city we are replaced while alive.
Transition must be done. Transition is important, to give others the opportunity to apply their wisdom into practice, to test their capacilities, to understand if they are somehow useful to their country or not? And, I did that in 2011.
I was the youngest of my senior officers at the Armed Forces, with an exception to Pedro Klamar Fuik, who was younger than me. If I hadn’t left, it would be like a car stuck in a traffic jam. It was even worst, there were others, who left even before me, and transition would not take place. I left not because I was bored and only wanted to run for the President. I left to make way for others.
I never told the colonels that they had to stay until they couldn’t take it anymore.
The President never told the Prime Minister that the general had to be Lere.
In my conversations with General Lere, I never told him that he had to stay. I told him always that the best thing to do would be to step aside and leave with good reputation and honour.
At our swearing-in ceremony, we all swore that we would abide by and enforce the laws and the Constitution. According to the law, our commanders have reached their term limits. I’m not sure if I’m wrong or if the Government is wrong.
The Government submitted a proposal to the President of the Republic, indicating a person to be considered for the position of General Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces. The Government suggested a renewal of the term of office. I stated the reasons for not agreeing with the proposal. By renewing the term of office, we would be keeping colonels from being promoted. General Meno would not be promoted as well and would continue holding the same position. If both stay, the law must be amended. If not, they both must leave. If both leave, we will need to colonels. One of them will be promoted to Brigadier, the other to Major-General, thus skipping a rank. The Chief of Staff, Mr Falur Rate Laek, who has served two consecutive terms of office of two years each, has also reached his term limit.
There are no opportunities for promotion. Recently, on one of my visits to Maliana, a youth asked me the following,
“In 2005/2006 people talked about lorosa’e–loromonu. Why is it that a (son of) loromonu being promoted becomes a problem nowadays?”
I just told him that I was not the one who was ruling.
I remember that in my schooldays teachers used to teach about rules of good conduct. They used to tell us that, while walking with an adult, a child should stand on the left when and always one step behind. They also told us that we should always pick the smallest of a number of objects and leave the largest objects for those who come after.
Once upon a time there were two brothers. They paid a visit to an acquaintance who offered them two oranges: a larger one and a smaller one. They argued about who should pick the first orange. When the oldest of the siblings finally picked the largest orange, the youngest said, “Where are your manners? Those who pick first must pick the smallest, but you took the largest and left the smallest for me.” His brother said, “If you were the first, which one would you pick?” “I would pick the smallest”, he answered.
Mr Prime Minister has left me with no choice. He didn’t pick the largest, he took them all.
There are only two generals. Which one should the President of the Republic choose?
If we manage to tackle larger issues, I wonder if this is a large issue and why the dismissal of General Lere has caused fierce controversy.
I believe that this not an issue. The real issue for me is how Timor-Leste is being led and the type of civilization we are building up.
The State of Timor-Leste is far too centralising. It centralises skills, powers and privileges. It excessively wastes resources, allowing thousands of Timorese to become second-class citizens. I know what I’m talking about, because I have visited 401 sucos. The Government has been talking about decentralisation and centralisation since 2004. 12 years later we are still debating whether the chicken or the egg came first. Municipalities and administrative posts have been long abandoned and left without resources, competences, concerned about life issues, while we are here wasting money.
During my visit to Aileu in 2012, I was given the opportunity to see first-hand that the MDG program was not working. I talked to our brother Xanana about this and he said “ok”. It has turned into a cancer. We have spent millions in vain. What is more, we have paid more than we should, according to a report of the Court of Auditors.
I was still General when the Hera harbour, whose building costs escalated to 9 million dollars, fell into pieces just before the inauguration ceremony. One of the military who witnessed the collapse started crying and said, “Why didn’t you give me the money instead of burying it in the deep sea?”
This is our real problem. Our schools, the teachers in Maubara who are forced to share the classroom, the teachers who sleep with his wife on one side of the room and teach on the other. In Laisorulai, teachers have turned the bathroom into an office and each classroom has 45 students.
When the 2016 State Budget was vetoed, members of Parliament and the Government thought that I was defying their unanimity. However, I genuinely felt that I was promoting Your Excellencies and helping our people. I am ashamed whenever I visit the sucos. It’s not my intention to say that the Tasi-Mane project and the projects in Oecussi cannot be conducted. I just want to ask if it’s possible to secure more funds to ensure access to water? For schools? Agriculture? Health?
Who allows this waste to take place? National Parliament. Why? While discussing the budget, National Parliament asks “how much money have you already spent?” instead of asking “on what”. There should be a clear distinction between costs in terms of percentage and costs in terms of material resources. I’m talking about goals and results. You allow the Government to waste our resources.
I asked the Court of Appeal to supervise the infrastructure fund. Since there is no opposition party, the President of the Republic takes on the role.
On 28 January I sent two letters to Mr Prime Minister. I began by asking about the existence of a feasibility study conducted for the Tasi Mane and Oecussi projects. As President of the Republic I needed a copy, because I was stunned when Mr Dr. Marí Alkatiri announced that the airport of Oecussi was going to be turned into an international airport. There are 62 thousand people in Oecussi. There are 250 thousand in Dili. Does it make sense that Oecussi has an international airport? I asked myself this question over and over again. First I thought that we could open casinos. Then I remembered that we could open a cabaret to attract people. If not, in the medium term we won’t have people going there, let alone International Airport.
I asked for a feasibility study for the Tasi Mane and Oecussi projects, and I hope that the Government will share the results with the President of the Republic.
Thirdly, I sent him a second letter asking for the reason why Timor-Leste has changed its position regarding the Timor Sea Treaty, namely the maritime border, since this treaty, according to which none of the parties will raise the boundary question for 50 years, was signed by Xanana and Marí themselves.
To conclude: on 4 February I told Mr Prime Minister that the President of the Republic had received complaints concerning privileges granted to our brothers Xanana’s and Marí’s family members and friends within regarding contracts signed with the State. Mr Prime Minister asked the President of the Republic if an inspection was needed. I said “no”, that I just wanted to keep him informed about the widespread discontent over the granting of privileges. Soeharto, was overthrown by his family. Too much privileges!
Members of Parliament, Mr President.
This is my problem with the Government. The Government uses the debate about Lere to get to the President of the Republic. The President of the Republic remains available to discuss a solution to this case with National Parliament and, in particular, the Government. The President asks you not to consider him as an adversary, but simply as a partner. My behaviour is governed by this principle.
The new slaves are those who are afraid to lose their jobs and their money, so the only thing they say is “yes. sir”. Do not count on the President of the Republic to build a society based on power and privileges. The days of this type of society are numbered, not only here but anywhere.
Mr President of National Parliament, distinguished members of Parliament:
I thank Your Excellencies for approving my request to address the nation in record time.
Also thank the President of National Parliament for making an effort by joining me in Maliana. After all, there are still humble and warm-hearted people. I still hold firmly to my belief and I hope that the position taken by the Government is not irreconcilable and that it manages to work through these issues to the benefit of the future of Timor-Leste.
To conclude, allow me to deliver a message to the people of Timor-Leste: I feel personally moved by your behaviour, wisdom and serenity in the midst of such controversy. As President of the Republic and Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, I use this opportunity to address a word of praise for the attitude shown by the military. Keep going like this. Timor needs you, needs me, needs all of us. There’s no other path to strengthen peace and stability and to develop our country’s democracy. This is the only path that will allow us to create opportunities for all regardless of race and religion.
Thank you very much.